The only change I made to this tradition as a young mother and wife, was to make the eggnog and bread from scratch. And now with the oldest son engaged to be married this coming June, our future daughter-in-law Ruthie, will continue in the family tradition. Ruthie is new to bread baking, which is not a problem, because bread is actually very forgiving.
There is no reason to be timid when making dough for bread, for you see there is only one rule that must be followed, don't over heat the yeast. Yeast is a tricky one, wanting what it wants, when it wants it. So all you have to do is give yeast what it wants!
Remember some of the old ways once practiced by cooks? The one I am referring to is where you drip a drop of warm liquid on the inside of your wrist. If the liquid does not feel hot and it does not feel cold, it is just right. But just right for what? Babies and yeast. Too hot will kill the yeast and baby won't like it either.
With that said, lets make bread. This is a simple farm style loaf. It is substantial enough for toasting and easy enough to accomplish, even during those busy times, like Christmas. Start the day before to mix, let rise overnight and bake when needed.
developed in the kitchen of: Our Sunday Cafe
1 cup milk
1/4 c butter
3 T sugar
1 t salt
1/4 c warm water
pinch of sugar
1 package or 1 scant T yeast
4 c flour - divided (always remember to lightly spoon flour into your measure and "sweep" the extra off)
Place the butter, 3 T sugar and salt into the bottom of a large mixing bowl, pour over the hot milk. Let sit until butter is melted and the mixture had cooled to comfortable warm.
While the milk mixture is cooling, proof the yeast.
In a small measuring cup, stir together the warm water, yeast and sprinkling of sugar. The yeast will foam and "proof".
Stir the yeast foam, add to the batter in the mixing bowl. Beat for a minute until smooth. Remove beaters from batter and batter from the beaters, you want all the batter!
FYI: You may only need 1 3/4 c of the remaining flour to form a stiff dough.
The dough will be stiff, but take care to work all the flour up from the bowl bottom and sides, into the dough. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, set a timer and let dough rest one hour.
Let cool in the pan five minutes, turn out to cool. I like to turn out onto a clean towel and place the loaf on it's side, so that more surface is exposed to cool the loaf quickly.
And then, enjoy. This bread slices up so nice. I can almost taste it now, toasted with cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. I guess now I should share that egg nog recipe, it is really really good!
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